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    Ministry - Tapes of Wrath

    Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 67 mins . M15+ . PAL

      Feature
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    One of the most aggressive and intense alternative rock bands to emerge from the US during the 1980s, Ministry – largely the brainchild of Alain Jourgensen – ironically started life at the start of the 80s as an outfit more committed to producing electronically-powered pop music. As a duo the band had already released low-budget material on the Wax Trax label in the US before delivering a debut album through Arista, “With Sympathy” – a record co-produced by Cars engineer Ian Taylor and Psychedelic Furs drummer Vince Ely. The first Ministry record to be released in Australia, “With Sympathy” was pure pop from start to finish, the carefully-crafted, synth-soaked songs a million miles away from what was to follow. Within a couple of years, Jourgensen was hammering out industrial rhythms and noise with producer Adrian Sherwood on Ministry’s 1985 Warner debut, “Twitch” (incorporating reworked versions of a few of the old Wax Trax recordings).

    Needless to say, this freshly-released music video compilation does not contain any clips from “With Sympathy”, an album that Jourgensen has all but disowned (at least one clip was made, though – for “Revenge”). That understandable omission aside, “Tapes Of Wrath” is a fairly comprehensive journey through Ministry’s sporadic output from 1985 through to 1999, comprising eleven Ministry clips and two bonus 1993 tracks from Jourgensen’s “other” band, Revolting Cocks (including their wonderfully sleazy cover version of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”).

    If you’re a fan, you’ll know exactly what to expect, and if you only know the band’s most commercially successful record (“Psalm 69”) you’ve got a lot more to tempt you here. Those unfamiliar with Ministry’s noise attack, though, should be warned that this is not background music, whether it be Adrian Sherwood’s relentless distorted drum machines or latter-day Ministry’s speed-metal bursts.

    The clips are almost all very low-budget affairs, and while they suit the songs well, there’s very little visual polish on show here (interestingly, early clip “Over The Shoulder” was directed by Peter Christopherson, later to come to wide attention as the director of some key Nine Inch Nails videos). Stock footage, blurry hand-held super-8 film and fast, fast cutting is the order of the day here, and if you’re feeling stressed before you put this one on, you’ll be doubly so by the end. Which would no doubt please Ministry greatly.

      Video
    Contract

    Many of the clips here are showing their age, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the majority of them weren’t of especially high visual quality to begin with – even taking into account the amount of found footage used, the visual quality is very much lacking in comparison to other artists’ clips made around the same time. This is likely the best representation of the clips you’re going to find, though – and with all the video noise and other assorted atrocities that are present, the DVD could have been a prime candidate for MPEG artifacting. It displays none, though, which allows you to see all the imperfections of the original clips in full digital splendour! The entire collection – 13 clips in all – is presented full-frame as they were originally made. The conversion to PAL from the original NTSC does leave something to be desired – a look at the blurry, almost unreadable end credits confirms that. Whether a better NTSC conversion would have made any difference to the clips is debatable, though.

    There are no subtitle tracks for those after help in deciphering the Jourgensen growl.

    The disc starts up with a non-skippable copyright notice, Warner Vision trailer and Warner Reprise Video trailer. To get past them you’ll have to hit “stop” followed by “play” – and while you’re doing this all-too-common task, ask yourself if you’d put up with such compulsory corporate banner-waving every time you played an audio CD…

      Audio
    Contract

    The audio here fares much better than the video. It doesn’t appear to have been digitally remastered, but is well transferred from the original clip tapes at a suitably high level and with plenty of top-end bite and bass grunt. The exception to this is “Reload”. Ironically the slickest clip here visually, it’s presented with muffled mono audio – with stereo tape hiss audible underneath. Remastering of audio tracks for clip compilations is still a rarity, and that’s a shame – it’s very, very easy to do in the majority of cases and would make the whole experience far more satisfying. For some reason, though, labels seem happy to just grab their analogue master tapes, compile them and release the result.

    That said, the audio on the majority of tracks here is close enough to CD quality to be perfectly satisfactory to most. There’s also an added bonus in that some early clips – most notably “Over The Shoulder” – contain alternate versions of the song that are hard to find in any other format.

    The sole audio track is in 48Khz 16 bit linear PCM.

      Extras
    Contract

    A static main menu screen and screens to select which clip you want are the only “extras” included.

      Overall  
    Contract

    For Ministry fans, “Tapes Of Wrath” will prove to be a valuable addition to their collections, pulling together a concise retrospective of the band’s growth over the past fifteen years on one instant-access disc. The uninitiated, though, would be well advised to rent this one before buying, especially given the poor video quality (which is, though, as good as it’s going to get with this material). A bit more attention to detail – namely, audio remastering and some relevant extra material, even a simple biography – would have earned this disc a higher overall rating.


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